The Ten Books on Architecture, 9.4

Vitruvius  translated by Joseph Gwilt

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Of the Northern Constellations

4The Great Bear, which the Greeks call ἄρκτος, and also ἑλίκη, has his keeper behind him. Not far distant is the constellation of the Virgin, on whose right shoulder is a very brilliant star, called by us Provindemia Major, and by the Greeks προτρύγετος, which shines with extraordinary lustre and colour. Opposite to it is another star, between the knees of the Keeper of the Bear, which bears the name of Arcturus.

2Opposite the head of the Bear, across the feet of the Twins, is Auriga (the charioteer) standing on the point of the horns of the Bull, and one side, above the left horn towards the feet of Auriga, there is a star called the hand of Auriga; on the other side the Goat’s Kids and the Goat over the left shoulder. Above both the Bull and the Ram stands Perseus, which on the right extends under the bottom of the Pleiades, on the left towards the head of the Ram; his right hand rests on the head of Cassiopeia, the left holding the Gorgon’s head by its top over the Bull, and laying it at the feet of Andromeda.

3Above Andromeda are the Fishes, one under her belly, and the other above the back of the Horse; the brilliant star in the belly of the Horse is also in the head of Andromeda.The right hand of Andromeda is placed on the figure of Cassiopeia, the left upon the north eastern fish. Aquarius stands on the head of the horse; the ears of the horse turn towards the knees of Aquarius, and the middle star of Aquarius is also common to Capricornus. Above on high is the Eagle and the Dolphin, and near them Sagitta. On the side is the Swan, the right wing of which is turned towards the hand and sceptre of Cepheus, the left leans on Cassiopeia, and under the tail of Avis the feet of the horse are hidden.

4Above Sagittarius, Scorpio, and Libra, comes the Serpent, the point of whose snout touches the Crown; in the middle of the Serpent is Ophiuchus, who holds the Serpent in his hands, and with his left foot treads on the head of the Scorpion. Near the middle of the head of Ophiuchus is the head of the Kneeler; their heads are easily distinguished from being marked with luminous stars.

5The foot of the Kneeler is placed on the temple of the Serpent, which is entwined between the two northern bears, called Septentriones. The Dolphin is a short distance from them. Opposite the bill of the Swan is the Lyre. The Crown lies between the shoulders of the Keeper and the Kneeler. In the northern circle are two Bears, with their shoulders and breasts in opposite directions; of these the Less is called κυνοσούρα, and the Larger ἑλίκη by the Greeks. Their heads are turned downwards, and each of their tails is towards the other’s head, for both their tails are raised,

6and that which is called the pole-star, is that near the tail of the Little Bear. Between these tails, as we have before stated, extends the Serpent, who turns round the head of that nearest to him, whence he takes a folding direction round the head of the smaller bear, and then spreading under his feet, and rising up, returns and folds from the head of the Less to the Greater Bear, with his snout opposite and shewing the right temple of his head. The feet of Cepheus are also on the tail of the Small Bear; towards which part more above our heads, are the stars which form the equilateral triangle above Aries. There are many stars common to the Lesser Bear and Cepheus. I have enumerated the constellations which are in the heavens to the right of the east between the zodiac and the north. I shall now describe those which are distributed on the southern side to the left of the east.

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